Angels and Demons: An Affirmation of One Woman’s Life by D.L. McHale


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"Woman Reflecting" (charcoal and ink) Dennis McHale, 2015©

There is much power and beauty in her world, yet her soul is divided into two houses:

One is spare and darkly decadent, surrounded by high windowless walls; there is very little color to break the monotony, and its gate is usually locked.

This house is full of decaying art – the crudely painted memories left by people who felt their life had been changed by divine intervention, offering eternal love for her with promises that were falsely laid.

II.
The other house is rich in colour, its thick outside walls washed in strong blues and reds.

In this house, the gate is flung wide open, and on the patio outside there are clay pots and plates all decorated in a kalidescope of vibrant, living colours.

Inside is a tiny virginal bed with a mirror above it reflecting back the inconsistent themes of her life.

III.
She wears her silken hair in ebony rivulets cascading in loose waterfalls down her gently curving back; she takes great pride in the delicate scar across her upper lip, a reminder of the evil that dwells in the angry guts of jealous men.

Her clothing echoes her hair – she dresses in embroidered shirts and wide floor-length flowing skirts, swirling in the warm summer winds of her womanhood.

All of this colour and dynamism reflect her conflicted character; the turbulent and contradictory life she lives.  Her own story is both tragic and uplifting; the essence of her more provocative, daring and strange spirit.

Indeed, in some ways the dichotomy of her life are chapters in a long autobiography, paralleled and matched by her inner angels and demons.

This internal schizm is refracted through the broken shards of a glass imagination, a constant yearning to fill the void within her. And in that complex yearning, another looming presence which was impossible to escape.

IV.
Her secret love, her one true love, is a huge man who looks even more enormous beside her diminutive body. He is a constant (but not faithful) companion.  She both loves and loathes him, in constant and equal measure.

The relationship between the two is fraught with conflict and anger. So it might be strange to see the two lace cloths embroidered with their names lying across the pillows of her bed.

There is in her life a curious blend of love, betrayal, hope, and long-sufferring sentimentality coupled with a harsh frankness about herself – a combination that seduces many people – not only him.

V.
Each night, she gently and quietly untangles herself from his sleeping embrace and makes her way by moonlight to her gray, colorless house with the locked gate.

She indulges in intense relationships with faceless women and men, offering her backside to conventional morality. But in the cool grey light of morning, she folds herself once more into the warmth and safety of his arms.

This constant terrible pain is a permanent feature of her life, yet it does not restrain her. In some ways it makes her wilder and more uninhibited. For much of what compels her life is about pain, and the terrible fragility of her body compared with the resolution of her mind.

Each day she deals most explicitly with the paradox of excruciating joy and exquisite pain.

VI.
Her alter egos are attached by fragile vessels which are not easily cut – hence the bloodstained scissors resting on her white dress. The lush landscape of her dreams seem inaccessible because of the thorny brambles around her neck.

While she might appear, with her beautiful traditional dresses and her tiny broken body, like the ‘perfect doll’ that all men and certain women desire, she is nonetheless fulfilled in her own right, and pursues sexual fulfilment and monogamous peace with equal fervor.

A ribbon around a bombshell.

She is inexplicably wrapped in endless  layers of the full spectrum of human experience and the unbidden possibilities in human understanding.

She senses affirmation in the enormous potentiality of both houses and the unique power of being a woman once freed from constraint.

She is fighting a revolution within herself.

VII.
Hers is a life of two-way narratives. Of unimaginable passions and failed restraint. An existence made all the worse by sadness, distress and a brutal sense of betrayal. Made all the better by the wanton surrender to the possibilities and potential of a woman’s body.

This is the permanent consequence of her life. Yet the often violent and disturbing intersection of her two houses within her soul provide ironic affirmations of life; there is beauty in both, not only in the qualities of conventionality, but in the power and strength of the life itself.

She is full of curses and imprecations interwoven with lyrical images and fragments of poetry. Her dualism defies fatalism with their colours, their endlessly surprising meetings of image and meaning, their powerful assertions of her womanhood.

VIII.
She is both madonna and whore, and she is perfect in her imperection.

Full of hurt and pain and yet equally bursting with life, defiance, and rebellion.

She is an ever-evolving act of defiance, a challenge, a continuing affirmation of life itself.

Outgrowing Her Shoes…


Photo Credit: Jopet Arce's photo of a pair of shoes
Photo Credit: Jopet Arce’s photo of a pair of shoes

She spent half of her life
wearing the same pair of shoes.

When she first saw them, they were dazzling…
full of promise (and promises!)

Tightly laced and polished,
glistening like diamonds upon her feet.

They were immediately comfortable, and comforting.

At first, she walked through dark night forests
and midnight-winding streets; breaking them in,

smiling at the melody of new leather creaking
in harmony with the violin-sawing of cricket wings,
with the ruffling of the night owls feathers.

She dared to share her dreams, and danced in her new shoes
with abandon and trust and hope.

The shoes spoke to her of wondrous things to come…
making promises shoes should not make
but new love demands –

of forever cradling her feet against sharpened stones;
of warming her toes through winter’s storms;
of lifting her heals in rapturous dance…

She fell in love with these shoes,
flooded with dreams of where they might carry her.
Each morning, she slipped them on with tenderness and love;
each night, un-laced, she fell asleep clutching them to her breast…

…whispering sweet hallelujahs
for all the miles they had shared,
and would in all their ahead days walk,
promising – until death do us part!

She loved her shoes with complete abandon
and imagined they would always be as comfortable

as the day she first placed them upon her trusting feet-

each day praying these shoes would always love her in return;
with tenderness, truth, and above all else, never hurting her.

But the years went by, and those beautiful shoes began to wear.
With time, they lost their gloss, and the leather cracked and hardened.

She noticed, one morning, a tiny droplet of blood upon her sock;
Later, a small cut upon her heel, a new pain within her heart.

Yet still, devoted, she continued to wear them
though at night she began setting them beside her bed.

In the final year, she wept looking at these shoes;
they were now ugly shoes, painful shoes.

“These shoes,” she tearfully whispered,
“will never carry me to where I need to go.”

She could tell in other’s eyes that they
were glad 
these were her shoes and not theirs.

They never talked about her shoes.
They looked away in embarrassed empathy.

To learn how awful her shoes were might make them
… uncomfortable.

To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.

She began, for the first time, to hate her shoes;
with guilt at first, then with an increasing passion

until one day an awareness swept through her thoughts:

“I deserve a better pair of shoes.”

She looked around, and for the first time understood
that she was not the only one who wore those shoes.

“There are many pairs in this world,” she thought.
I can either learn how to walk in them, timidly,
so they don’t hurt quite as much…

“…or I can throw them away.”

And she began to plan.

“No woman deserves to wear these shoes,” she cried.
So for the final few months, she gathered her courage
…..to throw them away.

Ironically, it was these shoes
that had made her a stronger woman.

These shoes had given her the strength to face anything.

They helped make her who she now was.

One day, she slipped them on a final time
feeling the worn leather against her savaged foot;

then, flooded with the intensity of love one can only feel
knowing love is forever lost…she kissed the shoe goodbye.

When the time was right, she took her shoes to a secluded ravine
kissed them, and tossed them…like an old pair of shoes,

into an abyss.

The shoes lay there broken, tattered, worn and useless.
The shoes could not speak of the love they held for the woman

For its tongue was torn.
Left to decay with nothing but the scent of the woman’s
tender hands scenting its laces, slowly fading.

As soon as the shoes were disposed of
she went barefoot into tomorrow, pain-free

and dancing and singing:

 “I will forever walk the bare feet
of a woman who has lost her shoes!”

But in exactly one year, she slipped on another pair,
happy and in love again, dancing and laughing once more...

hoping against hope, forgetting old shoes,
willing with all her heart for this shiny new pair to carry her home.

The Receding Tides of Love


receding tide

It’s easy to say goodbye – to meet again is hard.
Love gone like rose petals fallen on flowing waters
My thoughts of her are like these flowing waters,
Meandering toward the open sea on their hopeless journey.
In time, washed away over a burnt orange horizon.

My hope, too!

The north wind blows; here on the ocean it’s cold.
My home is at the bend of a crumbling, salt-soaked pier.
I watch a lone white sail at heavens’ end;
Like a waking dream, quickly gone – who can I ask where?
Darkness falls beside the endless sea.

We had often walked upon warmer, infinite sands
Pressing our bare heels into the foaming wetness.
But one set of footprints are swept away too quickly
Swallowed by the receding tides of love.
This cold empty beach was never what I wished;
These scattered empty shells speak of inevitable ends.

The beauty of the ocean’s edge declines more year by year.

As the sun goes down, a chilling wind appears
Whipping the sands, stinging my face…a reminder
That with beauty comes inevitable pain –
To hear seagulls cry, or see pelicans on the fly
Makes me sorrow even more.

I lack the courage for this day.

Wrapping solitude around me like a mother’s arms
I turn for home – or what I now call home –
An empty room, a quiet room, an empty bed, a quiet bed;
My refuge from the darkness and the light.
Myself, I think I’ve found a place that suits me..
I have made my home amidst this mighty shore,
Yet I can no longer hear the crashing of the ocean swells.

Outside my window, all the butterflies are white,
A pair flitter over the dying garden’s grass.
They are damaging my heart!
Two tears trace two lines down my face,
I send them to the ocean’s beaten coast.

One full year now separates the loving and the unloving;
I have not often thought of her, but neither can I forget.
We would not recognize each other even if we met again,
My face is covered with sand, my temples glazed with ocean foam.
In deepest night, a sudden dream returns me to her arms,
We look at each other without a word, a thousand tears now flow.

I know that this must have some deeper meaning.
My muse lifts me from my sickly state,
And smiling, asks me to write a poem
I try to write the pain away, but cannot find the words.

Tonight, the ocean’s wind enters through the window,
The torn gauze curtain starts to flutter and fly.
I turn slowly in my bed, looking up at the bright moon,
And send my prayers a thousand miles in its light.

The Dying Sun


castaway-charles-yates
Painting by Charles Yates

In the bitter waves of loss,
Thrashed and tossed about,
By the sullen winds of life that blow,
From the desolate shores of doubt,
Where the anchors of love once cast
In search of eternal purchase
Now dragging useless in sorrow’s gale.
I am quietly holding fast, holding alone
To the things that cannot fail.

Why?

That’s what I seek (although my heart knows full well)
The truth is, I may never be able to know for sure why.
But I do know that there is no single
“Should have done” or “could have done”
Or “did” or “didn’t do”
That would have changed that why.
All that love could do was left undone.
This shipwreck, my castaway life,
This endless frothing of cold, death-capped waves
Was due to my taking my eyes off the horizon
Where our dreams were setting with the dying sun.

foggyredwood1

Goodbye Beneath the Redwoods


The redwoods swayed softly;
their crowns in the planets,
toes tucked below soft earth
under carpets of wet needles
beneath our feet. 

This is how we said our soft goodbyes.

Our love, our forever love,
lay smoldering in the fire.
I could see the flames flickering
in her dampened eyes. 

I looked away, ashamed and afraid;
too much the coward to own her pain. 

She said it was the smoke –
one final lie to comfort me.

We speak in the soft, cordial tones of defeat
the air hanging heavy and silent between us.
Neither of us could hear the babbling brook
gently washing away the last remnants of hope. 

I will hold back my tears,
and the wrenching of my heart,
for the long, dark lonely nights ahead.  

Tonight, my love, my forever lost love,
let us wrest some comfort and warmth
from the dying embers of this bitter fire. 

Beneath these redwoods gently swaying
gather one last bouquet of memories
to set us on our separate ways.

My Life’s Palette


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It all began
with the glowing green meadows;
cool, dew-moistened blades of grass
softly pressed into the shape
of a young boy’s naked feet running 
frivolous and joyous
in the backyards of my innocence.

     In time, the azure-blue skies
     puffed with the carefree brilliant white cotton-candy clouds
     of my adolescence fed my wandering dreams,
     lifting me to new heights,
     pressing me tenderly against the heavens.

In my teen years, the skies grew heated
beneath the raging, orange-flecked storms
battering the massive walls of my pubescent limitations.
I fought bravely against the darkening forces shaping me,
but was laid low with the sizzling strike of a silver bolt of lightning,
my body then forged in the ruby red-hot fires of puberty.

     As a young man, there came a day with you in it;
     a dazzling star as yellow-bright and full of light –
     your beauty washed over me, igniting my purpose, 
     I was blinded by the intensity and the nearness of you, 
     awakening within me the amazing brilliant white glow 
     of desire, love, and hope.

Eventually, the blue-black sheet of night
was pulled over me; the skies darkened a midnight onyx
leaving me lying in the cool-grey mist of the shadow of Death.
The lights dimmed as did my voice,
as the murky fingers of Death reached toward me.

     I was immediately lifted up into a new beginning;
     the soothing winds of forever washing over
     the palette of my life
     as once more my heels were dipped
     into the forgiving green blades of grasses
     of eternity’s meadow.

The Hopeless Longing of This Day


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Each night within my folded dreams
You come to me, or so it seems
My heart beats then a thousand times
In aching rhythm, in broken rhyme

But when the morning sun appears
Once more I’m bathed in lonely tears  

My thoughts of you will more than pay
The hopeless longing of this day
Come now, and let me dream it true
With sleep-clenched eyes I am with you 

You part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say, Love, why sufferest thou?

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!  
My thoughts of you will more than pay
The hopeless longing of this day